Economy & Tech
20 July 2021
What is required in Central Europe is a move away from the centuries-old schoolhouse programmes and embracing ideas and curricula more suitable for today’s students or else global competitors could seize the market.
Interactive whiteboards and dashboards, collaborative online platforms, Zoom calls with dozens of blank screens which hopefully have receptive participants on the other side; since the start of the pandemic, our new socially-distanced and digital reality has upended our educational experience.
Previously, ‘progressive’ school schedules and methodologies might have embraced curriculum set by the Montessori, Adolphine or perhaps Waldorf schools, all of which began over a 100 years ago and whose uses have only been sporadically accepted and implemented.
Nevertheless, 2020 has forced us to embrace technological solutions to challenges that we were not, frankly, prepared to handle.
If we have been (and still are) so hesitant to embrace these ideas, what contemporary educational tools and methodologies are we timid from using today? Could they be a better match for the digital classroom our children must take part in?
Until very recently, our educational systems in Central Europe were still based on those developed during Prussia in the nineteenth century. The radical approaches from those listed above have never taken off in large numbers, but now we have the chance to leapfrog and adapt to the world which allows from effective digital learning.
What can be gained from this movement is that many students from across great distances can have access to educators who would have, naturally and exclusively, been more focused on those physically in front of them.
For those in business schools, this experience can be valuable in-itself as learning to adapt quickly to a shifting environment gives them the real-life experience of what businesses need to contend with on a daily basis; albeit, this is a bit of an extreme introduction.
What is lost is the offline social interaction which is important when it comes to experiencing life outside one’s house, town or school. Meeting and interacting in both academic and non-academic settings helps students develop very important interpersonal and emotional skills that will be required of them in the near future.
Yet, for now, the students and academics can treat this time as an opportunity to develop online communication, to learn more about the online experience. But we expect that within the next semester or two, most of the students will be eager to return to the offline experience.
For primary students, what is missing really affects the very well-being of the children who no longer can interact with their peers in the offline world, and this situation is exacerbated by the already existent social inequalities of different households, including just basic access to computers with reliable and highspeed internet.
Furthermore, at least in Poland, 10-15 per cent of students are suffering from psychological disorders, and these numbers are likely to increase from the amount of social isolation occurring across the region and world today.
An added problem for the schools of Central Europe is that by going online, you are now competing with more established and reputable universities across the world.
Especially, at the university and advanced degree levels, what is to prevent those in our market from studying at the London School of Economics instead of the Warsaw equivalent?
Perhaps one solution would be to more directly address the needs of the pupils, not just when at the secondary or university and beyond levels, but to view it more holistically.
People develop continuously throughout their lives and the artificial divisions we make in the education system – supported, of course, by public policy – are precisely that, artificial; they do not reflect the experience and needs of the students when they are six until they are sixty-five.
It is not useful to look at demographics and economic trends since markets shift so rapidly that we cannot know how many managers, for example, will be needed in the future.
However, preparing people for life in general and giving them the skills to adapt to whatever environment might be present when they (re-)enter the workforce or adulthood would be a valuable educational system.
This is a summary of a discussion with Anna Grąbczewska (President, Children’s University Foundation) and Krzysztof Kozłowski (Vice-Rector, SGH Warsaw School of Economics) at the New Europe 100 Forum on 27-28 October 2020, edited by Galan Dall, Editor-at-Large of Visegrad Insight. Find out more about the upcoming New Europe 100 Forum, future activities and our partners here. For updates, follow @NewEurope100.
The article is part of a project supported by the International Visegrad Fund.
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